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Online Super Bowl gambling curtailed by new law

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KAI RYSSDAL: Maybe we’re just not very sportsminded around here, but it occurred to me this morning there’s no Marketplace Super Bowl pool running this year. Just as an educated guess I’d say we’re kind of unusual, if only because of the amount of money that is bet on that game. Hundreds of millions of dollars legally in Las Vegas. As much as 8 billion illegally. A lot of that money’s gone online the past several years. But bets on this year’s Super Bowl XLI could be good for more old-fashioned bookies.

Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler reports on Internet gambling.

JEFF TYLER: Last year, worldwide, the Internet gambling industry took in an estimated $12 billion. About half came from Americans, according to Capital HQ gaming analyst Michael Tew.

MICHAEL TEW: One year ago, United States citizens comprised upwards of 50 percent of the entire industry’s revenues.

This year won’t be so profitable. New laws take effect banning the use of credit cards and electronic fund transfers for online gambling. The government has already frozen the assets of two companies, tying up online wagers in financial limbo.

David Schwartz is director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He says gamblers may have a hard time getting money back from these unregulated companies.

DAVID SCHWARTZ: You might be able to fly out to Costa Rica or the Isle of Man, perhaps, and do something. But if you can’t do that, you’re really out of luck.

Leary of having their own funds frozen, thousands of other online gambling websites have stopped doing business with U.S. customers. But Schwartz thinks the disruption is only temporary.

SCHWARTZ: Even though it’s getting more challenging, it seems that every time one avenue of payment is closed, another opens up. So I think it’s probably inevitable that somebody is going to leap into the fray. A company that doesn’t have any U.S. exposure will accept the money and facilitate payments for online gambling.

And the crackdown on Internet gambling could also be vulnerable to challenge under international trade law. The European Union has described the U.S. actions as “protectionist,” and threatened legal action at the World Trade Organization.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

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